Charlie Kirk claimed Turning Point is “funded by the grassroots of this country” but is that accurate?
Charlie Kirk founder of the controversial Turning Point USA got a little-heated yesterday during his debate with Hasan Piker, co-host of The Young Turks Breakdown at the yearly Politicon event. Video of the exchange captures Kirk’s sudden burst of anger.
As seen above, Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks and Piker’s uncle inspired the outburst. He was quick to respond when asked what he said to Kirk.
I asked him what his salary was. Same question he asked @hasanthehun. I want to know how much it took for the richest people in the country to buy his services. He claims he took a risk to start his organization. How much risk is there to do propaganda for the rich? https://t.co/0BXXOtM965
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) October 21, 2018
Uygur has never been one to mince words, and the brief exchange has opened a can of worms concerning the funding of Turning Point USA. In the video, Kirk claims his organization is “funded by the grassroots of this country,” yet research has shown that isn’t exactly the case. A 2017 International Business Times report details several donors to the conservative organization:
From 2014 to 2016, the Ed Uihlein Foundation gave TPUSA [Turning Point USA] $275,000, including $175,000 in 2016. Richard Uihlein, the founder of a lucrative shipping business and president of this foundation named after his father, is a Republican mega-donor and a “free-markets, smaller-government crusader” from the Chicago area.
The family foundation of Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a former private equity executive worth an estimated $500 million, gave TPUSA $150,000 from 2014 to 2015, according to tax records.
In 2015, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus’ foundation donated $72,600 to TPUSA. Marcus is a major GOP donor, having given $5 million to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now and millions more to spending groups affiliated with the Republican House and Senate during the 2016 cycle.
Other GOP mega-donors to the group include the Henry and Lynde Bradley Foundation ($20,000 from 2015 to 2016), the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, named after the in-laws of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ($10,000 in 2015)
It sounds as if Kirk states, “I give to charity every single year,” around the 25-second mark. However, The Daily Beast uncovered the following concerning Turning Point USA’s ‘charitable’ contributions after reviewing the organization’s tax filings:
Turning Point reported $1.87 million in grants to other charitable groups. But the vast majority of that sum, $1,825,150, was given to an affiliated nonprofit arm, the Turning Point Endowment, to which the IRS granted tax-exempt status this year. It reported an additional $45,000 in grants to individuals, but the form doesn’t list who those individuals are.
That means that Turning Point gave out exactly zero grant money to any charitable organization not directly affiliated with Turning Point itself. That, of course, doesn’t tell the full story. Turning Point isn’t a grantmaking organization; its nonprofit program activities take place in-house, and its tax filing says about 88 percent of its budget went toward program expenses.
Several days ago the Florida International University (FIU) chapter of Turning Point USA had racist conversations uncovered by Miami New Times.
“…Now, New Times has received disgusting chats from another FIU conservative group, Turning Point USA (TPUSA) — a far-right, college-focused group led by commentator Charlie Kirk. Members joke about watching underage cartoon pornography and deporting Latina women, and, in the most repugnant case, share racist “Pepe the Frog” memes showing Syrian men raping a white Swedish woman at gunpoint,” states the report.
Conservative organization Young America’s Foundation (YAF) published a memo alarming their members about the practices of Turning Point USA. YAF called the memo “a compilation of information from public sources, outlining the lack of integrity, honesty, experience, and judgment of this growing organization.”
Excerpts from the YAF document:
- Kirk shows little to no concern for the truthfulness of his claims about TPUSA, ignoring the contributions made by other groups, even when confronted about blatant falsehoods. Consider:
- Kirk claims TPUSA recruited 3,850 students at CPAC in a year when the number of students who attended CPAC was fewer than 2,400 (and most were already recruited by others, including Rand Paul’s network, Leadership Institute, Young America’s Foundation, and CPAC’s staff).
- Mediaite released footage of Juan Pablo Andrade praising Nazis, saying, “The only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is that they didn’t keep f***ing going!” while attending a TPUSA event. Andrade worked as TPUSA’s Florida field director in 2015 and led the group’s informal Latino caucus in 2016.
Kirk continues to receive invites to popular events such as Politicon despite the ethical concerns surrounding his organization. However, it is clear that he wasn’t forthcoming during his brief shouting match with Uygur.